Turel's U-M Spring Preview: Linebackers

GoBlueWolverine's Josh Turel is going through the Michigan football team, position by position: here are his 2005 Review and 2006 Pre-Spring-Practice Preview. Next Up: Linebackers -- Who will win the battle for the SAM position, Shawn Crable or Precott Burgess?


44 David Harris 5th./Sr.
49 Johnny Thompson Jr./So.
37 Chris Graham Jr./Jr.
46 Brandon Logan So./So.
6 Prescott Burgess Sr./Sr.
2 Shawn Crable Sr./Jr.
Or OLB 44 James McKinney So./Fr.
Or OLB 56 Lamarr Woodley Sr./Sr.
OR OLB 42 Chris McLaurin So./Fr.

Cobrani Mixon
Brandon Graham
Quintin Patilla
Obi Ezeh?

2005 review:

This group struggled throughout much of 2005 and was very inconsistent. David Harris had a very good year in terms of defending against the run but wasn't as good in pass coverage. He didn’t exhibit the same great instincts he has defending the run and it opened up seams for opposing offenses to exploit. Prescott Burgess was inconsistent but was given a very difficult task. He was split out in a cornerback depth in some sets and for his size was at a disadvantage in terms of range capability. Overall, you could make a case he was the teams most complete linebacker over Harris because he is much better at defending the pass. Chris Graham showed great athleticism but also that he still needs to be coached up. His pursuit angles were either too steep or shallow and he took himself out of quite a few plays. He has excellent effort and physical skill but needs to improve his ability to read his keys. John Thompson had a standout game against Iowa but still needs to improve his pass coverage ability to see the field more consistently. This group was another big reason Michigan didn’t defend the run well and overall was a sub par year for the linebacking crew.

2006 preview:

Much like the defensive line, things will get sorted out here in the fall. David Harris may be the only one whose job is safe and there will be competition and experimentation in this group. Look for several defensive ends to get looks at outside linebackers if the team mixes in a 3-4 front. Chris McLaurin has bulked up in his freshman season while still maintaining his excellent quickness. I expect McLaurin to challenge for time in the rotation if he continues to progress well. Chris Graham and Brandon Logan will compete for the weak side job in the 4-3 front. John Thompson is also poised to challenge for more playing time at both MIKE and WILL.

One thing to watch for in the spring is the battle between Prescott Burgess and Shawn Crable. Crable is coming into the spring with a lot of momentum and hungry for playing time, while Burgess could be vulnerable with the staff change. It should be of the hottest position battles heading into the fall. True freshman Brandon Graham could also challenge for playing time if he comes to Michigan in shape and ready to go. Expect new coach Steve Szabo to focus on improving the fundamentals of this group and install a more hardworking work ethic.

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